National Catholic Reporter
Subscribers only section
February 17, 2006

Letters Women priests

I have been paying particular attention to your coverage on the “movement” to ordain women as priests in the Catholic church. I did not write to you before, but now, in response to the feature story on women priests (NCR, Jan. 27), I feel compelled to formally disagree with what I consider a drastically misguided attempt to “inform” readers about this issue.

NCR has been completely one-sided, skewed and at times even defiant. While you cited one nun who did not act on her desire to become ordained out of humility and obedience, the interviews and articles overwhelmingly favor the opposite position. Somewhat clandestine ordinations and excommunications are heralded and praised by your columnists when they should be met with great caution. I was saddened almost to the point of tears when I read the small article about the two women priests who think that they are being practicing Catholics by functioning as ministers of the Anglican church, touting it as an “egalitarian priesthood.” I almost have to ask: Are you deliberately trying to turn people away from the church?

In America we are already “go-and-get-it-minded,” always looking for ways to justify our actions in order to gain some satisfaction or personal gratification. As a woman, I identify with the need to feel like I have a place in the church. I want to be able to make a difference. Let us do this through acts of charity, faith and humility rather than a glorification of self and the mission that we personally think we should carry out. Any woman should feel so lucky to be able to follow the example of Mary, who was content to participate in the apostolic mission, but not in the same way as St. Peter or the others. I do not support the traditional view that women have a role only as mothers or mother figures, but continuing “illict but valid” ordinations not approved by Rome is no way to go about changing that. From the interviews, it seems to me that the reason the featured women want to be priests is to perform tasks that they could do just as well as laity or as nuns, except, of course, where the sacraments are concerned. Women can lead, visit the sick, advise peers, engage in social action causes and so on, without having to go behind the church’s back.

Lawrence, Kan.

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I was moved by the front-page photo on NCR’s “Women Priests” issue: the Rev. Victoria Rue as a newly “unofficially” ordained Catholic priest. It was a sign of hope for the future of the church. Then I recalled 12 years back when Pope John Paul II wrote in his papal letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: “The Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of God and mother of the church, received neither the mission proper to the Apostles nor the ministerial priesthood.” At the time I was stunned by this statement. My response was: Who is it who first brought the body and blood of Christ upon the altar of the world? How can the Blessed Virgin be excluded from the priesthood, as she was central to the great mystery of the Incarnation? She was the protopriest. How did her exclusion stand so long without challenge?

The pope’s appeal to scripture that the Apostles, who were given the priestly ministry, were men brings up the fact that they were also Jewish and fishermen and illiterate and cowards, considering their abandonment of Christ at Gethsemane. So should not Catholic priests through the ages also reflect these same attributes? However, only the male gender is singled out as the basic attribute needed for ordination.

The long history of prohibiting women from the priesthood is not an argument that it should continue. It is an indication that perhaps we need to reconsider a sacrament that excludes more than half of the church’s membership from participation.

A healing of our church is what is necessary, not letters or tomes that tremble with the insistence of hierarchical authority. An embrace is required, not a gender-exclusive stiff-arm. Healing comes with an embrace, and what embrace is more healing than that of a mother and a father together?

It is heartening to see the love and the courage of the women who are being ordained. They are the light-bearers in these dark times.

Oakland, Calif.

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After reading Kris Berggren’s Jan. 27 article “Some women seeking ordination won’t wait for church’s OK,” I exclaimed: “Oh, no! Not again! What part of the word ‘no’ don’t they understand?” I went back to Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis and read this statement that a believing Catholic should have no problem accepting: “Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (compare, Luke 22:32) I declare that the church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the church’s faithful.” Get over it, ladies! There are more important things than the ministerial priesthood. The primacy of charity is more important than that of power and jurisdiction. That’s why, in some way, St. John the Apostle’s primacy of love is more important than St. Peter’s primacy of power and jurisdiction. That’s why, perhaps, the Johannine church counts more than the Petrine church. John Paul II went so far as to call the Johannine church the Marian church. A saint is superior to a mere priest. I suggest these women read Corinthians 13: “I will show you a still more excellent way” -- which we’ve all heard at Catholic weddings and ends this way: “So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”


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Congratulations to NCR for taking a public stand in support of women like myself -- called and gifted for priestly ministry by God, rebuffed by Rome and its minions for the crime of being female.

Praise to NCR, as well, for understanding and printing that one can be Catholic but not Roman Catholic. The reality that even Rome acknowledges full validity for 21 other Catholic rites, that it is equal (not superior) to those rites and has no governing voice in them, and the reality of some 150 Catholic communities not accepted by this consortium, is a truth too many of us have still to learn and accept.

I’m proud of you, NCR, and I haven’t been able to say that in quite a while.

Racine, Wis.

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I watch the struggles over the issue of women’s ordination in the Roman Catholic church from a somewhat unique perspective. As a woman Lutheran pastor, I celebrate the Eucharist each week for my parish. My congregation does not have a problem with the gender of its celebrant. They are focused on the 2,000-year-old words of institution in the eucharistic prayer, which re-present Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for them.

A couple of years ago, a young military family relocated to Washington for duty. The wife, a Lutheran all her life, found our church virtually the week they arrived. She came faithfully for the entire two and a half years they were in the area. She would ask her husband if he would go with her, and he would refuse. He was Roman Catholic. “But he doesn’t go to Mass,” she said to me. I counseled patience.

Finally, one Sunday morning about seven months later, he came to church with her. He was polite, but it was clear that he was there only to please his wife.

The young sailor began to come more often, two or three times a month. In the summer, I took the couple out to dinner. We had a great evening just getting to know one another. I explained that as Lutherans, we, too, believe that Christ in his body and blood is truly present in the Eucharist. (Our catechism says: “In, with and under, the bread and wine is the true body and blood of Christ.”) I said that I understood that Roman Catholics do not encourage their members to receive Communion in a non-Roman Catholic church, but that from our perspective he would be welcome.

Nothing much came of that discussion for about four months. But sometime in mid-fall, as I was distributing bread at the Communion, there, next to his wife, the young sailor knelt. “The Body of Christ, given for you,” I said. “Amen,” he replied, and smiled. He later remarked to me that his time with us helped him clarify and strengthen and sort of reenergize the faith in which he grew up.

I think there are many such stories out there. The gender of the one offering the love of Christ and the bread of life are immaterial. It is truly God at work in each of us for the love of the other.

Waldorf, Md.

Memories of a teacher

I read Richard McBrien’s piece on Regis Duffy (NCR, Jan. 27) with a smile. I was a theology major at Notre Dame and took a course with Fr. Duffy as a sophomore in the spring of 1990. It was one of the best classes I took and it forever changed the way I approach the Eucharist. Fr. Duffy taught us to look for the real presence in each other and encouraged us to be present to each other as God was to us. Through his charisma and infectious enthusiasm, he persuaded us to reflect on how we interacted with others, either in church or out in the world. He taught us that community was central to the Eucharist and that it was through community that we could understand God’s presence.

Fr. Duffy’s love of “Peanuts” also made it into our class, with at least one “Peanuts” story each session. Once, when I was browsing through Pandora’s bookstore in South Bend, I found a used copy of a book called The Gospel According to Peanuts. Excited, I brought it to Fr. Duffy, who -- of course -- had already read the book and encouraged me to keep it.

I was very sorry to read of his suffering. But I know that Fr. Duffy’s acute awareness of the Real Presence must have been very comforting in his last days. He was such a terrific presence for his students.

Tolland, Conn.

The question of evil

In his review of The Birth of Satan by T.J. Wray and Gregory Mobley (NCR, Jan. 20), Jerry Ryan puts forth assertions that are not necessarily universal. Ryan states, in his argument that the book does not fully cover the topic, “We know instinctively that there is something out there that does not like us.” I do not share Ryan’s instinct. Also, Ryan states, “A God who was the cause or even indifferent spectator of the chaos … would be a monster.” I would share disappointment with such a God, but a spectator is not necessarily indifferent, and we were created with the freedom to choose. I choose to work for a just world, and I only accomplish what God does through me.

Jesus asks us to love our enemies. This can be taken quite literally in dealing with all our enemies, be they other people or innate desires for control, status, sex, material goods, and so on, or simply our ignorance. Let us “love” by observing and understanding all human forces and desires, determine the motives, and we may find no enemy to project.

Gonzales, Calif.

Life Teen founder

Angie Boggs’ letter “Don’t cast stones” (NCR, Jan 20) concerning NCR’s coverage of the Dale Fushek affair misses the point on all counts.

It is not a matter of “balance.” One cannot balance abuse with some number of good works. Abuse is unacceptable, period. The fact of the matter is that no less than seven men, an extraordinary number as such cases go, have come forward and expressed their willingness to be put through the arduous and painful process of a trial in order to bring their alleged abuser to justice.

Nor is it a matter of whether Dale Fushek is a charismatic and effective minister who makes Ms. Boggs and others feel good about themselves. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that many sexually abusive clergy are extraordinarily effective at their jobs. Indeed it is that very effectiveness and charisma that build the atmosphere of trust that in turn puts them in a position to more easily exploit those in their care.

What is worse, when these charming individuals do abuse, their victims are at a disadvantage because people such as Ms. Boggs, who have no basis other than their affection for the alleged perpetrator, rush to defend them.

Ms. Boggs’ appeal to Christian values of “not casting stones” is an offensive distortion of such doctrine. Either Dale Fushek is guilty and deserving of prison, or he is not. This is one of the tiny minority of cases where the accusers will have their days in criminal court.

Long Beach, Calif.

Fatherhood of God

There is much in Robert Royal’s column of Jan 13 with which I strongly disagree. Only one issue do I address here, and that is my amazement at Royal’s equating the qualities of the fatherhood of God with those that can be expressed only by men.

Since the earliest traditions of the church, the naming of God as “Father” was understood much more broadly and profoundly than the qualities of the male parent, or of any mere human parent. “Father-God” is of sacred meaning and sacred tradition. It goes profoundly deeper and beyond the “fatherly instincts” to which Royal alludes.

One truth Royal does state in his last paragraph is worth noting: “We need men who can model in their daily lives the Father who loves us all [emphasis mine].” Yes, Robert, all. Perhaps that would have been a better base from which to develop his printed thoughts.

San Francisco

Immigration dilemma

I was very glad to read your editorial “The immigration dilemma” (NCR, Jan. 13). Why is it a dilemma when so many North Americans now living in the United States have ancestors who were immigrants? The technological realm of our culture goes ahead in leaps and bounds, but the part of our culture we recognize as our spirituality sometimes goes backward in leaps and bounds. An example of this is when we look at immigration law and understand how during the past 20 years it has progressively slid downhill to the point of some of us wanting to construct an enormous wall to keep our neighbors out. I am grateful for the U.S. Catholic bishops’ position on immigration, their pastoral statements and their endorsement of the McCain/Kennedy Bill. But where is the majority of the faithful? I really pray that the Holy Spirit shows us how serious the need is now to have real comprehensive immigration reform. I also pray that our senators in February, and the government as a whole, will work together to respond to the human dignity of immigrants.


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Regarding the editorial “The immigration dilemma”: It is not strange that an essentially pro-illegal-immigrant editorial comes from Kansas City, Mo. Unless one lives in a Southwest border state (California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas), you cannot understand the devastation caused by illegal immigrants.

Look at California, my home state. There are 3 million illegal immigrants in California (11 million in the United States). Annually they cost California $10 billion. Illegals are bankrupting our hospitals. Six hospitals closed in Southern California in the last three years. Illegals are overwhelming our school system. Teachers must be bilingual to teach illegals’ children. Thirty percent of all felons in California prisons are illegals. Enough is enough, I say.

But it is our Christian obligation, you say. But is it? The Catechism of the Catholic Church (Duties of Citizens, page 540, paragraph 2241) says: “The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of security and livelihood which he cannot find in the country of his origin.”

The operative phrase is “to the extent they are able.” For our self-preservation, illegal immigration must be stopped. The border states are on the verge of catastrophe. No one seems to listen, particularly those of you from Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, etc.

Would Missouri like to take its fair share of illegal immigrants and relieve the burden on Californians? Let’s see: 11 million illegals divided by 50 states equals 220,000. Are you ready for your 220,000 illegals in Missouri? We can send them to you immediately.

Garden Grove, Calif.

Catholic hospitals

Regarding the article “How corporate, how Catholic” by Joe Feuerherd (NCR, Dec. 23) and the letter in response to it by Sr. Rita Brocke, RSM (NCR, Jan. 20):

I add my voice to the small outcry (whimper?) about nonprofit hospitals overcharging uninsured patients. It is especially reprehensible that Catholic hospitals engage in this practice, making huge profits and paying excessive compensation to executives. Many people are forced into bankruptcy, even homelessness, because of the aggressive practices of the collection agencies hired by the hospitals. This, in my opinion, is immoral.

Various congressional committees are looking into the matter; however, I think Catholic leaders should be taking the initiative in cleaning up the economic abuse in the Catholic hospitals.


Letters to the editor should be limited to 250 words and preferably typed. If a letter refers to a previous issue of NCR, please give us that issue’s date. We reserve the right to edit all letters. Letters, National Catholic Reporter, PO Box 411009, Kansas City, MO 64141-1009. Fax: (816) 968-2280. E-mail: Please be sure to include your street address, city, state, zip and daytime telephone number.

National Catholic Reporter, February 17, 2006